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Post-Apo VL Nomads

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Outback Nomad Campervan Conversions - A Post-Apoalypse Nomadic Existence

The current phenomenon of VanLife Campervan Nomads is only possible as a result of clever 'up-cycling' to better-suit vehicles for the realities of nomadic travel under post-apocalyptic conditions. Many 'outback nomad' van conversions were begun before 'The Great Fall'. And the new realities demand further concessions ... but mobile lifestyles which avoid the remnants of major metropolitan areas have proven very wise.

Invariably, outback nomad campervan conversions vary widely as a result of individualistic approaches to both gleaning materials and to construction/modification techniques. Many of the 'non-Road Warrior' conversions have focused on mods to motive power and running gears. The illustrated example is a case in point.

Beneath its exterior additions and interior living quarters installation, this Ford E350 shuttle bus has been heavily modified. The 5.4 litre V-8 was retained but its transmission deleted and the engine converted for multifuel operation. [1] The V-8 now makes up part of a genset to provide back-up power to the electric drive motors. Also deleted is the original live-axle rear suspension. This (and its leaf springs) have been replaced by tandem, beefed-up Tesla Smart Air Suspensions - each unit powered by twin Nissan E-4orce XL permanent-magnet electric motors. The entire drive system is powered by eight reclaimed GMG graphene aluminum-ion battery packs. [2]

The exterior of the E350 has been given a 'camo wrap' to reduce its visual footprint. This camouflage pattern extends to the rear windows which have a screened version of the 'outback vista' print. Normally, this vehicle would be topped with 'sky-tone' tarpaulins to cover rooftop stowage. (Here the heavy-duty streamlining tarp has been rolled away but the camo-tarps are yet to be deployed.) With the sun almost directly overhead, the 'hard', tilting photovoltaic panels are left lying flat. More power can be generated by the photovoltaic awning - but at great cost to camouflage.

Mounted on the left side, the large awning is made from a flexible PV material. Shown here still stowed, when unfurled - and  supported by its separate tent poles and guy-wires - this huge PV awning quickly satisfies most of the stationary vehicle's trickle-charging needs.

Note that among the rooftop stowage are extra spare tires. These are not yet mounted on rims. Rather, they support (and protect) inner tubes which act as methane reservoirs - from the galley digester, feeding the gas hob. Also visible is a chimney for the mini-stove. [3] Prior to mini-stove use, this chimney would be fitted with its removable cap. Other external changes are a hefty 'roo bar' up front and 'recce bike' rake on the rear - both fitted with easily-accessable spare tire mounts. Set at handy grabbing height along each side of the E350 are sand recovery boards - two on the left side, four on the right. The interior of the vehicle is outfitted as simple but comfortable campervan capable of sleeping up to four adults.


[1] The V-8 can run on various forms of CNG but is tailored for domestically-produced methane. Digester feedstock is provided by use of the head. Engine methane can be diverted from rooftop storage tanks - mainly intended to supply the galley's 2-burner gas hob. The latter methane supply is generated by a separate kitchen-waste digester.

[2] Brisbaine-based Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMG) produced pouch cell graphene aluminum-ion batteries for high-end electric vehicles. The battery pack clusters are arranged in three rows on either side of the vehicle frame with another two forward of the suspension units (in the former driveshaft space). The space between the frames aft of the suspension units is occupied by a supplementary grey-water tank, a methane digester, and a methane cell specifically for the V-8 engine.

[3] Under normal conditions, outback nighttime Winter temperatures drop to between 4-and-3°C. However, with climate changes, lows down to -7°C have been recorded. The mini-stove takes the chill off by producing heat as well as providing an auxiliary cooking surface for hot meals or a cuppa before bed.

Old Wombat:
Nice Aussie conversion! ;) :smiley:

Thanks OW. Except, I forgot to flop the image for RH drive! Fixed now  :-[ 

Well put together.

Some of the outback camping setups I have seen around the place have all the cool gadgets, but this appears to have all those and more.

I've just about ready to post my next image but thought I should provide the backstory-to-the-backstory first ...

Cascadia - Life Out on the Edge

After 'The Great Fall', no-one really questioned the independence of Cascadia. Nor that this entity was more a loose affiliation of Cascadian regions and locales. But that independence was de facto rather than de jure. Some would argue that the Pacific Northwest had always been distinct ... separate even when not yet de facto independent.

Since the end of the last Ice Age, the Cascadian region had always been replete with natural resources. A notable exception was in access to fossil fuels. During 'The Transition', conventional oil refining would all but cease. USOR in Tacoma was the first refinery to shut down. Tesoro in Vancouver, WA, to the south followed. Across the Columbia in Oregon, the refinery network also began to collapse when both Kinder Morgan and NuStar Energy failed. Oregon Veggie Fuel in Beaverton was small enough to survive and even started to diversify its product line. Columbia Pacific Bio Refinery in Clatskanie shifted its focus exclusively to ethanol production.

Needs Must - New Fuels for New Times

In the Puget Sound area, both the Anacortes Refinery and Cherry Point facility near Bellingham created plastic pyrolysis plants - turning waste plastics, tires, etc., into refinable biocrude feedstocks. This propped up 'conventional' fuel supplies in the region temporarily. However, as the money economy withered, the raison d'ętre for these refineries went with it. Pyrolysis of plastic waste into diesel increasingly became a more local, DIY activity within the new barter economy. Eventually, for quality oil-based fuels, there were no real alternatives. But these local purveyors of diesel had lower-priced competition.

Almost everywhere you look in Cascadia, you see wood. If not surrounded by forest, you'll be standing in wood waste. In the immediate aftermath of 'The Great Fall', previously out-of-date wood-fired kitchen cook stoves were suddenly worth their weight in, well, wood. Air quality suffered but, where ever 'air-tight' heater stoves could be installed, people found ways of staying warm. It was only a matter of time before more folks re-discovered wood gasification to produce syngas fuel. Even more than DIY pyrolysis plants, wood gas generators encouraged decentralization. Large operators had difficulty securing sufficient woody raw materials through the unfamiliar barter system. DIY wood gas producers often exploited their own woodlots, recovered woody debris off beaches, or found other local sources of feedstock. [1] This provided a perfect fit with growing social mobility. A people migrated away from failed cities and suburbs into the backcountry, they found a network of fuel suppliers already in place.

"Dying embers of a campfire ..."

Syngas from wood had obvious disadvantages. The stored energy in wood-based syngas was must lower than in refined petroleum products. Producing the wood gas was also a smelly, smoky, sooty affair. The upside was that wood or wood wastes were everywhere. Where once there were fears of being swamped with plastic garbage, landfills were now being mined for plastic detritus. Old tires had become the closest thing to a currency - worn tires being suitable for all sorts of repurposing beyond simple pyrolysis.

Other than availability, there were other benefits of using wood-based syngas in a vehicle. [2] First, compressed wood gas could be burned in almost any vehicle previously set up to run on CNG or propane. Secondly, the exhaust plume from such a vehicle smelled just like a campfire. In the backwoods of Cascadia, a well-hidden vehicle made no emissions which could readily be distinguished from any close-by campfire or wood stove. By nature, a well-camouflaged campervan was 'stealthy' since trying to track a campfire smell in post-Fall Cascadia was to chase a will-o'-wisp. [3]

By contrast, even very remote wood gas producers could be easily traced by following their plumes of smoke. Most wood gas producers mark their property line access points with syngas symbols to exhibit their willingness to trade. The well-recognized death's head symbol was a clear sign to travellers that they should look elsewhere for their next refuelling opportunity ...


[1] A byproduct of wood gasification is biochar - a form of charcoal produced in a low-oxygen environment. In the acidic soil of Cascadia, biochar is an essential ingredient in 'slash-and-char' agriculture - the biochar providing soil amendment with its high carbon content, increased pH, water-retaining porosity, etc.

[2] Syngas, as with plastic pyrolysis, was also widely used to power local, small-scale electric power generating stations.

[3] Indeed, it has been argued that the independence ensured by wood gasification hastened outside acceptance of Cascadia's separateness. It wasn't that syngas was in any way distinct to the region. Rather the ubiquitousness of wood gas helped to make moot the demise of the former central authorities. (Ironically, most of the DIY wood gasification plants were based upon a detailed how-to manual on at-home syngas production which had been made available by FEMA - an agency of one of those former central authorities.)


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